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Kentucky escapes Nashville with a win and a whistle headache


After winning its first three conference games by an average of 30 points, Kentucky had to fight for 40 minutes to hold off Vanderbilt in a close one Tuesday night. A 12-point favorite at tip-off, the Cats went down the wire with the Commodores in Memorial Gym and escaped with a very tough, hard-fought road victory, 87-81.

From an entertainment standpoint, it was one of the worst basketball games you will ever see in your basketball-watching lives. We have the officials to thank for that — they called 43 fouls in the game, mostly of the ticky-tack variety. The game never found its flow because of the frequency of the whistles on both sides of the floor, which is why I don’t think it’s out of line or an overreaction to say all three officials should be fired and deported. They robbed us of a good basketball on ESPN Super Tuesday.

More from the action between the whistles…


MVP: ‘Zay Brisoe

Kentucky’s sophomore guard led all scorers with 23 points and a lot of those came when his team needed a bucket in the worst way. Briscoe repeatedly got to the rack through the Vanderbilt defense and he finished each and every time, as he always seems to do. Whenever Vandy tried to make move, he was there with an answer on the other end. (I call those “Shut the **** **” shots, and he had a lot of them.)

Briscoe’s attack was the Cats’ steady force offensively and proved to be the one thing that could not be stopped throughout the game. He was on the court for over 39 of the 40 long minutes and had five baskets in each half to go along with seven rebounds and five assists, while being the only Wildcat to not commit a foul, somehow.

He did miss every jump shot he took, but we’ll give him a pass on those for now because he did everything else to lead his team to the dub.

De’Aaron Fox was a monster in the second half.

Fox was one point shy of matching Briscoe’s 23 for the game as he finished with 22 on 11-of-17 shooting in the game, earning him MVP runner-up honors. 16 of Fox’s 22 came in the second half after he played only six minutes before halftime due to foul trouble. He then went 8-for-12 from the field when he returned to action out of the break, which, along with Briscoe’s drives, proved to be the difference-maker in the end.

However, like Briscoe, Fox still can’t knock down the jumper (although I think he did get one this time). If those two start hitting those consistently, RIP to the competition. Still, great showing by both guards with 45 combined points.

Malik Monk scored a quiet 18 points. 

You know you’re talking about a special player when an 18-point night is just “Meh.” That’s where we are with Monk right now — he scored 18 and didn’t play anywhere near what he is capable of. In this one he was only 6-for-15 from the field with one assist and one rebound in 29 minutes.

Monk did hit the free throws that sealed it, though. With Vanderbilt trying to make some late magic, Monk went to the line and hit two free throws on two separate trips in the final 17 seconds. There was no chance he was going to miss those. Killers don’t miss the kill-switch free throws. Automatic every time.

And for those keeping score at home, it was 63 combined points for the Kentucky guards.

Early foul trouble saved Vanderbilt.

If not for the tight whistle, this game likely would’ve been a rout from the get-go. Kentucky pounced all over the ‘Dores out of the gate to a 9-0 lead in the first three minutes before Fox and Monk went to the bench very early in the game with two fouls apiece. Without that early foul trouble to UK’s two star freshman guards, we are likely telling a different story right now.

The officiating was terrible each way, but don’t let a Vanderbilt fan complain to you. The crap officiating is what made it a ball game.

Kentucky went 1-for-9 from outside.

Shout-out to Malik Monk for keeping that record streak alive. Monk’s three-pointer at the very beginning of the game was the only one Kentucky made all night.

The seniors played very poorly.

John Calipari didn’t get much from Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis or Mychal Mulder and this is a game when they were needed with all of the foul trouble. Willis finished with four points and four fouls; Mulder bricked a couple of three-point tries; and Hawkins didn’t do much of anything either in his nine minutes. You can throw Wenyen Gabriel in that group of no-shows, too.

Bam Adebayo was unstoppable in the first half, not so much in the second.

I spent most of the first half screaming “FEED BAM!” at my television because Vanderbilt had no answer for the big man. He was a perfect 3-for-3 in the first half on the rare occasion he didn’t draw a foul and he was 7-for-8 at the line when he did get the whistle.

The second half was a different story when his touches declined but it was still a pretty good night for Bam with 14 and seven rebounds.

56 free throws in the game.

Fifty. Six. Free throws.

We’ll take that win every time.

The blowout wins are fun and all but you take a win in Memorial Gym however you can get it. Vandy always brings it against Kentucky (Kornet, LaChance, Roberson and Fisher-Davis were all above their season averages) and that backwards-ass gym always affects the opponent.

If you were expecting the Cats to smash that 12-point spread and run away with another easy one, you should know Kentucky hasn’t won a game by double-digits in Nashville since 2005. It’s just a tough place to get it done.

And Kentucky got it done Tuesday night to move to 4-0 in SEC play.

Go Cats.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

25 responses to “Kentucky escapes Nashville with a win and a whistle headache”

  1. KYJelly

    Drew, are you blind? Fox was hitting his jumper at will tonight. He pulled up for 15 footers quite a bit and drilled them.

    1. runningunnin.454

      Yep, Drew must have dozed off a few times with all the FT’s.

    2. 4everblue

      Yup, Drew must be blind! Also Rex called Drew and Matt out on the radio last night for saying Monk can’t play defense. I don’t know about you but I trust Rex’s opinion more than Drew’s and Matt’s seeing as how, of the three of them, he is the only one who played division I and pro level basketball.

    3. EdC

      Trust and Rex in the same sentence. Hilarious after guaranteeing Cal to the NBA years ago and blatantly stealing from the Apple store. Age old nonsense that you have to have played a sport to understand it. All you have to do is listen to different announcers who HAVE played the game to know that most of them are terrible at analysis.

    4. STLouisBBFan

      Drew had probably switched over to O’s farewell address.

    5. cjruk1

      Drew completely missed the mark on his analysis here as Fox was knocking down jumpers at a way better clip last night. Maybe it’s just me but I have noticed recently that Drew’s posts have gotten a little lazy. It’s almost like he wasn’t watching the same game as the rest of us.

    6. BlueGrass

      I thought Drew meant 3’s when he said jumpers, because Fox did have the mid-range game on.

      The Cats shot A LOT of long 2’s last night.

    7. Mathlete

      Drew’s definitely referring to the 3 ball as a jumper. Briscoe and Fox were both were 0 for whatever on the night from behind the arc, Monk hit the only one at the beginning of the game.

    8. 4everblue

      @EdC If you can read ,and I’m not sure you can stop judging long enough to, when it comes to basketball you’re damned right I trust Rex. Maybe you never got to see him play or maybe judging others for their mistakes helps you not look at your own. Or maybe you’re just a UL fan.

  2. JusSayin

    Briscoe didn’t miss every jumper he took. He hit the 18 footer just inside the top of the key off the pick and roll.

  3. bhoward

    Sadly, Derek Willis didn’t quite muster 4 points… he only scored 2 whole points in his 22 minutes. Willis for Vandy scored 4 points with 4 fouls.

  4. 4everblue

    Drew if you’re not going to pay attention to the game at least look at the box score and maybe talk to someone who did pay attention. You are totally off on this piece, like Rex said, “you’re better than that”

  5. Papa G

    Just read this post and was about to point out some of Drew’s mistakes. I see that other posters already let him have it. Fox hit one jumper? Are you kidding me?

  6. ukblue22

    It would have been nice to see them continue to feed Bam and finish fouling out all their big men. But for some reason they stopped. When you get 4 fouls on a guy and don’t foul him out, I’m not sure what’s going on.

    1. EdC

      I was thinking the same thing. With Bam and Isaac both available to pound it inside success can be spelled in just fouling them out. Then what do they do? They aren’t dep.

  7. jrdh13

    we must get bam the ball.. it should be just like it was with karl,,, bam touches the ball everytime down the floor

    1. fauxbobknight

      Karl didn’t get nearly as many touches as he deserved. They would only force feed it to him when they were down in the second half instead of consistently going through him. Karl only averaged 10.3 ppg on the year.

  8. Catsby80

    Can somebody help me out here? Did the Kornet kid not have 4 fouls with 10 minutes left to play? Why were we not driving it into his chest from that point forward to get him out of the game? From the 10 minute mark to the end of regulation I bet he scored an additional 6-8 points, too. I’m certainly not going to question the coaching, but perhaps someone can explain why our guards and our bigs were not going straight at him from that point forward? Especially Humphries. He’s got fouls to give, let him attack the rim and if that chump fouls him then he’s out of the game. Seems logical to me.

    1. catsarerunnin

      Give Humphries the ball and “attack the rim”? In a close game? Seriously??

    2. J-Dub421

      Briscoe did drive at Kornet, and Kornet did foul him. The refs just didn’t call it.

    3. Catsby80

      Yes, seriously. Humphries fouling out means nothing in that game. If I’m coaching that team, I’m telling them to give Humphries the ball and telling Humphries to attack the rim aggressively. I’d tell Bam to do it, but he was in foul trouble.

      The game would not have been close if that big tree Kornet fouled out with 10 minutes to go. That is my point.

    4. Mathlete

      The refs missed about 9 fouls each on Vandy’s bigs after their coach lit them up

    5. catsarerunnin

      I respect your opinion but Humphries rim attacking abilities aren’t the greatest. He plays really hard but he’s not a reliable option offensively even if just trying to draw a foul.

  9. 3 fan

    Our 5th starter and bench combined to play 76 minutes and score a total of TEN points. We gonna get beat with that production

  10. Luether

    Drew, agree with your assessment of the officiating. Way too many CS calls. This was the kind of game that former young Ky teams lost…